Friday, December 20th, 2013

Writing Prompt – The Personal Essay

dreamstimefree_63535-eI rarely explore prompts categorized as “personal essay.” I include them in a lot of suggested prompts, but they aren’t often the focus of my blog since I generally talk about fiction.

But personal experiences bolster fiction. It’s these experiences that allow authors to write what they “know.” They lend realism to an otherwise imaginative tale.

When you choose a suggested prompt below, spend some time remembering the details of what occurred or visualizing events or objects before you start to write. Have things clear in your mind so they can be clearly articulated in the writing.

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • Write about an event in your life that you considered bad – but turned out to have a good impact. Use a chronological format to pinpoint when your negative feelings turned to positive ones. Spend some time exploring your state of mind and what brought about the change.
  • Write about one day in your life which is particularly memorable: something that is so burned into your memory, you’ll never forget. Tell what happened, but expound on the reasons it’s so meaningful.
  • Have you ever been involved in a discussion or argument where you thought of the most right or perfect thing to say after it was all over? Here’s your chance to change history: re-write the event as it should have gone, if you’d said the right thing at the right time.
  • Write about a time that weather impacted your life. In the essay, include details of the weather by using your senses: sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.
  • Write about a family tradition or heirloom. Has something been handed down for generations – or is something celebrated in a distinct or unusual way? Visualize the artifact, or recount the details of the celebration in general, or one in particular. Write a letter as though you were explaining these things to a younger family member. What makes them so important?
  • Write about a day in your life when nothing went right from the moment you got up in the morning until you pulled the covers over yourself in the evening at bedtime. How did you feel? (Frustrated? Angry? Powerless?) Think about one thing which could turned the day around. What would that be? How would you do things differently?
  • Good luck!


    Cover of Sky Lit Bargains by Kelly A. Harmon depicts a woman dressed in armor, leaning against a stone wall.

    Have you read Sky Lit Bargains?

    Forced to leave home when her twin sister marries because her new brother-in-thinks he’s gotten a ‘two for one’ deal, Sigrid takes up arms to make her own way.

    Photo Copyright © Randall White | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Writing Prompt: Change of Habit

change_10338195_300pxOld habits die hard.

It’s a bit of cop out here to rely on tired aphorisms, but it gets my point across succinctly.

A change of habit–getting out of one’s rut–can take a monumental effort of strength and will. Creating new habits can take the same. (New Year’s resolutions, anyone?)

But from a fiction writing standpoint, they offer so much fresh material–so much potential for a character to grow and experience–that it might be worthwhile to add it to your Writer’s Toolbox. (You may prefer, to do as I do, and add it to your arsenal instead. 🙂 )

Consider a character with an ingrained habit. Perhaps every day on his way to work, he walks three blocks on Franklin Street, catches the Number 9 bus which takes him downtown, gets off at the industrial center and takes the company taxi into the plant.

What if whether by chance, fate or choice, he’s late getting out of the house. He misses the Number 9, and has no choice but to take the Number 11 instead? Eleven will drop him off at the industrial center, but not before first driving to the docks to let off folks who work around the Harbor. It will make him 30 minutes late, but it’s better than waiting another 45 minutes for the Number 9 to come back around.

Your character’s routine is entirely off. What will he experience along this route? Maybe it makes him change his point of view about something. He decides to make a life change. Or maybe the Number 11 bus gets hijacked. Either way, he’s out of his comfort zone, and something new–for better or worse–is about to happen.

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • Write a story in which your main character is forced to abandon his or her habit. What happens?
  • Write about a character who deliberately changes his or her routine, hoping for the better. Make things worse for him or her.
  • Write a poem about change or habit. What are the emotional repercussions?
  • If you journal, write about something you’ve changed for the better, or something you changed for the worse. If worse, tell how you alleviated the new problem. If better, relate the steps you took to maintain it.

Good Luck!


Cover of Lies by Kelly A. Harmon depicts a Navy Aircraft Carrier on a moonlit night. Have you read Lies?

The Queen lies dying, and the mage-physician holds the key to her health, but he doesn’t quite know how to use it. The Book of Lies has the capacity to heal, if only Beresh can write the proper words. But only a few pages remain in the book, and if they’re used before the queen is healed, she won’t be the only one to lose her life!

Short-Listed for the Aeon Award.

$2.99 at | $2.99 at Barnes and Noble

Friday, August 30th, 2013

Writing Prompt: The Call to Action

A girl in a backback staring off into space.I got a phone call this morning, inviting me on an adventure.

(It was a fairly mundane adventure–more of an errand, really–but an adventure for me nonetheless.)

I summoned up my courage, belted on my longsword, picked up my rucksack and walked out the door.

(Okay, I decided whether or not I really wanted to do this, grabbed some extra cash– and my purse, and headed to the car.)

Despite perils (speed traps and dump trucks, a deer in the road, a box I tripped over…) I returned triumphant…

…and a good day was had by all.

I know this is all kind of vague, deliberately so, because I wanted to use it as an example.

The phone call this morning reminded me of Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey,” a formula for writing stories, in which the first step is “the call to action.” I wanted to make clear from the start that Campbell’s formula is an excellent method for telling stories, despite the genre or method.

Campbell postulated that stories from all regions of the world, from all time periods, share common themes and patterns.

The first step in many stories is that the hero gets a call to action. Mine today was literally a phone call, but this call could come in a myriad of forms:

– a near-deathly accident could cause a person to change his life
– a stint in jail could cause a woman to reevaluate her priorities
– a college opportunity causes a student to change majors
– physician discovers something that sends him down a path of research

Basically, a call to action is an event, an opportunity, a discovery– a change from the norm–that brings a person to a decision point.

This “something” usually happens at the very beginning of a novel or short story.

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • Write the opening of a new novel or short story: write your hero’s “call to action.” Develop your character enough for us to believe this “call” (and subsequent change in his life) is believable.
  • The second part of Campbell’s formula is the “refusal of the call.” Many heros are faced with situations they can’t tolerate. Write the call to action, and follow it up with a scene in which your hero refuses to heed it.
  • If your journal, write about a time you received the call. What happened?

Good luck!